I almost didn’t go here. It took three adult women (my mother, a family friend and a teacher) to convince me to apply to Yale after I was named a QuestBridge finalist. I argued with them — I shouldn’t even bother applying. I wasn’t good enough. But they convinced me to give it a shot.
I know better now: I am good enough. It took four years, international headlines, many tears, sleepless nights, protests, tremendous love and spiritual reawakening for me to understand that every moment I have spent at Yale is an act of defiance. I am a woman of color who has attended an institution that, for most of its existence, did not think a person like me was worthy of an education. More than this, for much of its history, the faculty and students at Yale did not think that a person like me was worthy of having a voice.
This is my last column for the News. I have a voice. I am here. I have survived this place. I have ferociously loved this school, and it has also broken my heart.
I am sure that this past year at Yale will be discussed, documented, analyzed and written about for decades. It must be. But the events that transpired at Yale are not important specifically because they happened at one of the most prestigious academic institutions in the world. This year matters because of the courageous women and people of color who recognized that this campus has silenced them.
And we spoke anyway.
In light of the disheartening announcements made by University President Peter Salovey on Wednesday, I’ve thought a lot about one moment last semester. Another Latinx student and I were comforting each other after a very painful open discussion at the Af-Am House; we had just met earlier that week, but we understood each other’s pain. A faculty member approached and hugged each of us. She held our hands, and we all held back tears. She said, “I need you to understand that Yale needs you more than you need Yale. This place gets more out of you than you will ever know.”
I have thought so much about these words. At the time, this notion comforted me because our collective pain is more important than this institution’s glacial progress, but in the following months, I felt more hesitant to take this sentiment at face value. I’m about to graduate with an Ivy League degree; my time at Yale has been the most formative, most critical, most intense four years of my life. Don’t I owe this growth to Yale? Should I not be grateful?
The answer is complicated. I owe Yale so much, but Yale has also failed me. I have grown because of the tribulations I have faced here. That’s because Yale wasn’t made for me. As much as this school tries to become more than an institution for wealthy, white, Christian men, that doesn’t mean it can accommodate the needs of its current, robust, dynamic, inclusive student population. My love for this place is so complicated that “love” doesn’t feel like the right word.
After four years, I am humbled by the opportunity to study with many incredible professors. I am deeply amazed by the strength of community I’ve experienced in Jonathan Edwards College. I am endlessly grateful for the friends and mentors I’ve made while here.
But those of us who are colored, queer, low-income, female and/or gender nonconforming: We have given Yale an education, too. We have recognized its failures and demanded improvements. Yale exists because it has profited from and exploited nonwhite bodies. We have forced it to reckon with the burden and shame of this unbearable, incontrovertible truth.
On a holistic level, Yale hasn’t taken the lessons that student-activists have offered as seriously as it should have. But there are members of our community who are learning, who are listening, who are even speaking on our behalf. Even though it doesn’t feel like it on a symbolic, institutional level, Yale is changing. Yale is growing. And we did that. That is entirely, completely, totally because of us.
I wanted my final words in this publication to be about gratitude.
My dean once told me that when he reads my columns and sees the comments people write in response, he wants to tell them, “You’re welcome. Adri brought this to your attention.”
I wanted to say thank you, Yale.
Instead, I am going to say:
You are very welcome.
Adriana Miele is a senior in Jonathan Edwards College. This is her last column for the News. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .